USA Today Bestselling Author
Another mission into the shadows was the last place he wanted to be. Last time it ended his career. This time promises death or salvation.
Ryker Tufano has spent the last several months drowning his survivor’s guilt—and unexpected ejection from the Navy—in alcohol and self-loathing. His entire SEAL team, and his memory, were lost on their last mission. A phone call from the mysterious Charlie changes everything. It was all a lie.
When he discovers that his foster brother and SEAL teammate, Ajax, is alive, they must head back to Ethiopia to rescue the rest of their team.
Xena Riggs is angry with her bosses in Washington DC. They were willing to let an entire SEAL team be erased for their mistake…her mistake. Offered redemption and retribution if she helps two of Charlie’s newest employees, she jumps at the chance.
As Ryker follows his guide into the mountains of Ethiopia, he’s not sure if she’s Xena Warrior Princess, GI Jane, a wet dream…or walking him into an ambush.
Xena is having trouble keeping her heart out of this mission. Lust doesn’t belong in these mountains. If Xena survives this assignment without being captured and killed by the enemy, there’s a good chance Ryker will kill her himself once he discovers the truth.
This book opens with Ryker Tufano growing impatient waiting for Charley to show. Instead he gets the shock of his life when his brother and teammate Axel walks in. They both believed the other to be dead along with the rest of their teammates. Neither of them can remember the events of that last mission having woken up in the hospital.
Serena, Charley’s assistant leads the meeting with Charley on the phone. When they realize they are going after their teammates there is no question they are in.
We get our first glimpse of Xena Riggs as she is trying to ascertain the location of the captive SEALs, quite an interesting scene as we meet part of her team.
Once back in Ethiopia Ajax, Ryker and Serena meet up with Xena. Ryker wants answers gets a bit condescending and Xena lets him have it. I do love strong women and Xena definitely qualifies in more ways than one.
I almost choked when I realized Xena would be teaming up with Ryker and seriously started to worry for his health and well being as I chuckled. Unfortunately they still haven’t found all of the SEALs, though Xena has folks looking for them.
They have to detour first to attend an Embassy dinner with Xena’s mother. Ryker would learn a lot at that dinner. The most fun starts the next morning at Xena’s family compound ‘Eden’.
This is a favorite scene.
Xena was so excited to see her father home and safe. She didn’t care how terrible he smelled. He’d been in the far western regions of the country tracking down Nebil Yared, the second most powerful rebel, who supposedly had ambushed and captured the Navy SEALs and still had four in his possession.
Giving her dad one last squeeze, she stepped back. “You have good news?”
“Yeah,” he said distractedly as his gaze swept the table, landing on her breakfast. He winced as though rejecting the local food.
“Professor Riggs,” Zala said with a broad smile as she entered the dining room with arms filled with plates. “I’ll bring your usual breakfast out in a moment.”
As she began to set plates in front of Ryker, his eyes got wider and wider. Eight slices of French toast were stacked nearly a foot high on one plate. Eight pancakes covered another. Four eggs, cooked exactly the way he’d requested, sat atop eight slices of perfectly toasted bread. The last dish was covered an inch thick in bacon.
“Ma’am. This all looks wonderful, but I apologize. I didn’t mean for you to make all of this food for me.” Ryker looked devastated by his mistake.
Xena, Clint, and Van burst out laughing.
“You knew this was going to happen, didn’t you?” Ryker glared at her, making her laugh even harder.
All Xena could do was nod her head up and down.
Ryker looked to Zala. “Ma’am, thank you for going to all the trouble—”
“Stop right there, son, before you upset the best cook in Western Ethiopia.” Her father then spoke in Oromo, Zala’s native language. He thanked her for the excellent meal she had prepared and asked her to bring him only fruit and juice.
“Yes, professor. I’ll bring that right away.” Zala spun on her heel and strode from the room.
Getting herself under control, Xena finally explained. “Zala comes across as fluent in English but in truth, knows very few words. She understood all the breakfast items and made them for you.” She gestured to the plates of food.
“And since I saved your sorry ass, I’ll take that French toast. I’ve been thinking about Zala’s breakfast ever since yesterday morning.” Her father grabbed the plate and slid it to the other side of the table where he sat beside Clint. He picked up his son’s silverware and started cutting off pieces.
“Good thing Mom didn’t see you do that.” Van got up and poured himself another cup of coffee.
“Your mother would cringe at what I’ve eaten, and the way I’ve eaten, for the past week. Most of my meals were devoured at the tip of my Bowie knife. Nobody up in the damned mountains knows how to make decent injera.” He shoved a huge forkful into his mouth, then closed his eyes, moaning as he chewed.
When his eyes opened, his gaze immediately went to Xena. With a small tilt of his head toward Ryker, his eyebrows raised. “Please tell me you didn’t bring him home from the party last night.”
She knew exactly what her father meant, but as a grown woman, she loved to torment him. She pasted on a guilty smile. “Actually, I did.” She grabbed Ryker’s hand and interwove her fingers with his. “He’s such a great boyfriend, and Mom likes him. Since I was heading here to Eden, I brought him along.” She tried to affect a dreamy gaze at Ryker— while trying to hold in a laugh at the terror in her dad’s tired eyes.
Her father swallowed hard. He then set down his silverware and gathered himself. “You haven’t brought a boyfriend here since your ship was stationed in the Indian Ocean. This must be serious.” The older man wiped his hands on a napkin and stood, extending the right one across the table. “Adam Riggs. It’s a pleasure—”
Xena couldn’t hold it in any longer. She burst out laughing. “Daddy, this is Ryker Tufano. He’s not my boyfriend, although he played the part very well last night at the embassy party. He’s our new mission, from Charley.”
Ryker immediately stood and grabbed her father’s hand. “Sir, I assure you, nothing is going on between your daughter and me. I’m here to rescue the remaining members of my SEAL squad and that’s all.”
Disappointment ran through Xena. She had thought perhaps the kiss last night might be the start of something mutually beneficial. Then, when he’d appeared at her door in the middle of the night wearing nothing but low-slung sweats, she’d started to hope that Ryker might be interested in her body, at least. It had been a long time since she’d taken a man to her bed.
Her father sat back down at the table and dug into the French toast and bacon, consuming his breakfast almost as quickly as Ryker. Xena knew her father hated talking business during a meal, so she made small talk with her brothers.
Once her father pushed back from the table, that was her cue that he was done. “So, Daddy, you said you had good news.”
“I do.” Her father got up and poured himself another cup of coffee. “Over the past week, I’ve met with several rebel groups under the guise of selling them guns and ammo… for gold.” He smiled at her before he sipped. “Thank you for that insider information. I’m still not sure where they’re getting the gold, but I did get to see some of it. I’m quite sure if Neberu knew about it, anyone involved with the mining operation would be dead. As near as I can tell, it’s coming from an old mine north of Dembi.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, please don’t tell me they’re talking about the Queen of Sheba mine.” Clint downed the last of his coffee and got up for more.
“What’s the Queen of Sheba mine?” Ryker asked.
Xena knew the way her father answered questions, like the professor that he was. He couldn’t simply give her the name of the town or village. No. He had to first tell the entire story behind the answer.
Before her father could start a six-thousand-year history lesson, she quickly explained, “The oldest gold mine in existence is still producing near the Sudanese border. Oral history claims that it was the key source of gold for the ancient Egyptian Empire. Daddy has even found gold artifacts dating back six thousand years that chemically match the ore still being dug up over there. About ten years ago, a metallurgist matched the gold to that given by the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon of Israel three thousand years ago.”
“Wow,” was all Ryker said.
Detailed history lesson averted. Xena grinned with pride as she glanced toward each of her brothers. “Now, Daddy, I believe you were about to tell us where Ryker’s teammates are being held hostage.”
“Oh, yes. I followed leads all through the mountains for a fucking week. Thank God almost everybody knew the name Digger. Most were happy to tell me about the rebels, hoping that I would sell them better arms or begging me not to provide them with any guns and ammo. The government really doesn’t do anything for those people.”
Ryker often shifted in his seat, anxious for the location. She reached under the table to pat his thigh, just as he repositioned himself. Her hand slid dangerously close to his cock.
Their eyes met.
She hoped the look on her face said I’m sorry rather than I’m interested in what’s behind your zipper. To reinforce her unsaid message, she patted his leg closer to his knee.
“I spent last night in Metu Zuria where a farmer swore they’re in the foothills about ten miles south of Gore. They had been to Mettu University trying to recruit young men into the cause.” Her father had finally given them the location.
“That area is surrounded by small farms that have been hit pretty hard this last year by the drought,” Blade announced as he headed to the corner for coffee. “I could land a bird two clicks away and the rebels would never know it.” When he glanced at Xena, she snapped her hand away from Ryker’s leg. She didn’t need him making assumptions.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Ryker’s glance bounce between her and Blade. What the hell was that about?
“You volunteering to fly in a team tonight?” Adam Riggs asked. Blade shrugged. “Sure. We should take Dell. He wants to play with his new drones. They can give us a heads up before we walk into a pile of shit.”
Her father looked at her. “Roll your team out at midnight. That puts you on location around two. Recon only.”
“I’ll take the Poseidon up and do a few flyovers as soon as it gets dark.” Van loved flying the newer Boeing P-8 reconnaissance plane with more gadgets and spy gear than analysts back at Langley would be able to analyze and comprehend within a year.
Although she really appreciated his offer, all she said was, “Thanks.” She didn’t want him to think it was that big of a deal because he would hold it over her head the next time he wanted something from her. Sibling rivalry was abundant in the Riggs family.
KaLyn Cooper. Shadow in the Mountain: Shadow SEALs Book #4 (Kindle Locations 1169-1238). Black Swan.
There’s a lot of tension as they get closer to the deadline for finding the SEALs and find they’ve been moved yet again. They Axel’s team and theirs have to strike at the same time or all would be lost.
Between Xena’s brothers, her team, and surprise visitors, there is plenty of suspense, action and the sizzling romance with Xena and Ryker I couldn’t put this book down.
5 Contented Purrs for KaLyn!
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KaLyn Cooper’s romances blend fact and fiction with blazing heat and heart-pounding suspense.
Twenty-two years as a military wife has shown KaLyn the world, and thirty years in PR taught her that fact can be stranger than fiction. She leaves it up to the reader to separate truth from imagination.
She, her husband, and Little Bear (Alaskan Malamute) live in Tennessee on a micro-plantation filled with gardens, cattle, and quail. When she’s not writing, she’s at the shooting range or on the river.